How far can I go

…how many miles can I drive a '99 grand caravan with a new freshly charged battery if my alternator dies while on the road?


No very far, and all accessories have to be off; lights, radio, heater, A/C etc. Usually you can limp home, if it’s not too far.

There are too many variables to get an exact answer…It could be as little as 5 miles or as much as 50. As Doc says above…make sure ALL your accessories are turned off (a/c included) in order to maximise the range. Also make sure you don’t do it at night when your lighs will consume A LOT out of your battery.

Like Docnick said - not very far. And it does depend on what is running. And why would you want to abuse a new battery like that?

can I limp about 5 miles?

With all accessories turned off, you can drive 2 or 3 hours on the battery. At night, with headlights, 45 minutes…

You probably could, as long as the engine starts easily. Starting the engine takes a lot of power which is immediately replenished by the alternator IF it works. Without an alternator that won’t happen of course.

Drive gently and get into high gear as soon as possible.

THANKS ALL!.. you’ve given me a way back home!

I wonder if you should get a jump start (if possible) so that you draw less from your battery at startup time.

I once had a friend call for help with what he thought was a dead battery when he was on a road trip and happened to be in my town when his car (late 80s/early 90s Escort) died. It was pretty clear it was an alternator, but he wanted to try just replacing the battery and going on his way.

He made it about 110 miles, about halfway to his destination, before his car died again. Ford dealer towed him in, replaced his alternator, gave the battery a slight charge, and sent him on his way (they were very kind - $200 for the whole service, including the tow).

That said, I don’t know if his alternator was truly dead or just VERY weak… but replacing the alternator fixed all his problems…

As long as you don’t need headlights, you should be able to drive at least one hour without an alternator.

That hasn’t been my experience since cars became equipped with electric fuel pumps. I had an 87 K-car and I heard the alternator pop at night with one traffic light between where it happened and my house. The car died as I approached my house and the battery was so dead the starter only clicked.The distance was a mile and a half.

That’s debateable because the engine will probably quit running long before the battery goes completely dead.

At some point the battery voltage will drop low enough that things will start shutting down. In the old days of mechanical fuel pumps and contact point distributors you could drive for hours on end but just the fuel pump alone, not to mention the ECM and a dozen or so sensors, on a fuel injected car is going to eat the juice up quickly.

I made it 25 miles once. Of course I was 30 miles from my house at the time. The last 5 miles the vehicle made on the tail end of a tow truck.

Years ago I did it with my 59 Pontiac driving home 200 miles from Sioux Falls at night. I made it about 100 miles with the lights on then had to stop to have a hamburger and a recharge to make it the rest of the way home. Today, I’d be surprised is you could make it a couple hours without any lights or accessories on.